Why do wine experts swirl their wine in the glass before drinking it?
Well, for one thing, it looks freaking cool. Of all the talents I’ve gained from three decades in the wine biz, the ability to gingerly slosh wine around in a glass without any flying around the room is a trick that never fails to impress an audience.
I don’t mean to make it sound like you have to be David Blaine to perform “the swirl”; it’s easily mastered with some practise and should be because, if you’re serious about getting the most out of a bottle of vino, you need to be able to jostle your juice.
When a poured wine is agitated, oxygen is drawn into the glass. The O2 begins to have its way with the liquid, slowly softening any aggressive tendencies and releasing much more of its aromatic characteristics as it rotates. You might think that the true pleasure of wine begins when it hits your mouth. Not so. The aroma is way more important. While our sense of smell may take a back seat to sight and hearing in our day-to-day lives, what goes into our nose goes straight to our brains, triggering vivid memories of past experiences and suggesting to our palate what it can expect to taste.
When making notes on wines I’m trying, the list of aromatics is always longer than the list of flavour elements, with the majority of the scents I sense mirrored in what I discover once the wine has passed my lips.
Glass designers expect you to play with your wine. That’s why they create specific stemware to enhance the aromas of certain grape varieties and regional wine styles. The best have microscopic impurities that the wine brushes up against as it revolves, helping reveal even more of its hidden secrets. So if you’re not swirling, you’re cutting your olfactory enjoyment off at the nose.